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Asia-Pacific Net, PC use low

President Clinton and Intel chief Andy Grove address e-commerce and high-tech sales in the Asia-Pacific region at a Silicon Valley conference.

3 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--Half the people in the world live in the Asia-Pacific region, but they don't use computers or log on to the Net at nearly the same rate as U.S. consumers.

However, e-commerce and high-tech sales in the area can be fostered by more government investment and less regulation, President Clinton and Intel Corporation chief Andy Grove told hundreds of international leaders and executives here today at the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council's (PECC) Asia-Pacific Information Technology (IT) Summit.

"Every computer will be a window of opportunity for every company in the world," Clinton told the crowd via video today. "We should work to revise existing laws that could inhibit global e-commerce."

Poor telecommunications infrastructures in many Asia-Pacific countries,

Clinton on how IT and e-commerce can create opportuntiy
along with online censorship policies, high tariffs, and the dominance of English-based computer and Net applications, are just some of the barriers impeding the robust growth of IT in the region. Southeast Asia's recent financial crisis also has slowed current sales.

The president of the Philippines, Fidel Ramos, and ministers of trade from Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, China, Malaysia, and Australia will spend today and tomorrow soaking up U.S. policy ideas and advice from profitable Silicon Valley corporations geared at fueling the global marketplace for CPUs, Net connections, and online products and services.

The United States is also here to learn. The summit is a precursor to Clinton's meeting with the Asia Pacific Economic Corporation (APEC) in Vancouver, Canada, this weekend to discuss IT tariffs. The president sent U.S. trade representative Charlene Barshefsky to the summit to gather support for his goal of a tariff-free environment in cyberspace by next July. PECC serves as the corporate advisory board to APEC.

Grove, for one, has seen both sides of the Asia-Pacific technology market.

Intel CEO Andy Grove contrasts Asia-Pacific and U.S. IT workers
Intel has been successfully manufacturing out of Malaysia for more than 20 years. The company's revenues also slumped due to the recent financial turmoil in the region. But he said today that his company would not decrease its investment due to a cash crisis there.

It's no surprise the Silicon Valley visionary wants the area's leaders to encourage more consumer PC and Net use. Just as important, he said, are the social and local economic benefits of the widespread use of technology.

To prove his point, Grove tried to wow the crowd with demonstrations of programs that incorporated videoconferencing using satellite-based online access, such as distance learning and telemedicine. His own medical file with pictures of a recently injured foot were used to show how doctors could download a patient's case history to make house calls and communicate via video with office staff or physicians around the world to treat the problem.

The highly advanced applications were pitched as a means for solving existing cost-intensive problems such as low adult literacy and poor public health care, which may have stalled Asia-Pacific governments' past urgency in investing in IT. Grove warned if the region's leaders don't invest now--faster than the rest of the world--then they will never catch up.

"Information technology is nothing short of a competitive necessity," Grove said. "An economy that is made up of efficient suppliers and educated buyers will be an awesome economic situation."

Providing incentives to those who buy computers was one suggestion. For example, in Malaysia such purchases are tax deductible.

Grove echoed Clinton's hands-off policy for online commerce as outlined in the White House "Framework for Global Commerce" paper. He discouraged governments from trying to contain Net content as well. "Governments can provide leadership and cultural direction," he said during a question-and-answer session after his keynote speech. But, he added, "Technology can't be bottled up. Minimalist intervention by government is the most effective."

[Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.]